Work, Life and Chance – Backgammon: The Game of Princes

Iran, Esfahan (Isfahan) – Ali Qapu Palace

“Your life’s whatever you make of it.” That’s a popular phrase meant to bolster confidence – or even motivate employees… Well, there’s more to life than meets the eye at a glance. Anyone who’s gone through life longer than just a couple of decades has come to realize what Baz Luhrman so aptly said:
“Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”

Many smart comedians, philosophers and coaches will tell you that. It is actually a wise person who realizes it – it has been known for centuries if not thousands of years among people, mankind even.

There was a ‘modern’ urge when the civil society began to form that found one outlet in the possibility to emigrate to the USA, then dominions still. With a huge country apparently all there just to find your luck without any shackles or strings attached, the credo was: “Your life’s whatever you make of it.”

Was it, really?

Even the first settlers faced grave challenges, partly from indigenous peoples who wouldn’t all easily accept that land-taking by strangers. Bluntly put.

Additionally, so few conditions known, many pioneers just died from starvation due to completely different climate and soil conditions.

Yet, marketing and people who wanted to sell this idea and self-promoting methods as new ways to happiness and self-made wealth just persisted publishing self-help guides.

The idea of course is appealing. But in the long run it will lead to anger and frustration, because it leaves out all those chances life presents us all with: Recently we were all witnesses to it again on a huge scale, a pandemic, with millions of deaths.

We were lucky too, in many ways, in many parts of the world. But the long and the short of it is this:

Life is full of chances and conditions and surroundings that will make it easy or difficult to reach goals you wished to attain.

Sometimes, just knowing there is a philosophy behind it, summarized like this, can help:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Here is a fine short documentary on the game of Backgammon and its vital difference to chess: Chess is like war. But Backgammon is like life: And it is thousands of years old. It was even used to teach princes at the ancient courts of Persian kings to be sophisticated and wise leaders of their governments.

We cannot control everything in life. A lot depends on luck and surroundings. But we can always try to do our best in any given situation.

It’s a German language version with English subtitles:

A Veritable Credo

image of lighthouse and a rock on seashore
The basics…? Food, dry shelter and clothes. Beyond that? Humans need company to feel accepted. To feel as part of a whole.

To get beyond acceptance and beyond the basics many people are prepared to do almost anything. Attention which is equalled with special acceptance is at the centre, often half-conscious. Depending on the culture, wealth may be put at the top of the list.

The bucket list?

To me, life can be full of pain, cruelty and suffering. In order to make life bearable or even wonderful, we would want to avoid pain for others and for ourselves.

Any wise book in this world you may want to try will put it in so many words. Philosophers as well as business reckonings as well as the great books of the four biggest world religions contain these elements in principle:

Life can be dreadful and it can be wonderful. We, as grown-up human beings are largely responsible for what we do and how we treat others on life’s journey.

We can see it as one big race. But, as Baz Luhrmann put it so wisely, “the race is long but in the end it’s only with yourself.”

There are times when some people wonder what to do, what to put at their list’s top.

In that case I would like to put it this way: All four religions and their central books/scrolls have their strengths and weaknesses, some parts of them having been discussed for centuries.

But, in order to live together in this world that depends on us being smart and compassionate and remember our ancestor’s ways of honouring nature – the human rights of the United Nations can be considered the best possible foundation, a rock of truth as it were, to measure everything else by – and with.

Your yardstick.

After that, the basics. And laughter, kindness and joy shared. Love.

Fashion or Favourite – The Blindness of Prejudice

image of workers in a foundry at the melting furnace
Courtesy freepik.com – Licensed image

Fashion can be truly deadly in a sense: When it becomes a cast, an iron mold to surround us like a cage. It can enclose the mind. It can enclose the body, because certain expectations as regards clothing, movements and even personal behaviour lead us to shun personal character. Like a cage – making all the same…

I’ve posted similarly before. The subject presents itself over and over again. These days it seems to be even more pronounced when the life of such a formidable figure as the late Queen Elizabeth II of England is being reviewed.

She was a queen of the first water: Although not originally ‘born to be queen’, since the abdication of her uncle only made her own father king in the 1930s when she was eleven, she was raised to a high sense of duty and faithfulness to her country and the idea of monarchy as such. From my point of view I would call it the sense of providing guidance and present an example.

Being an example and that in the eyes of the public to boot, is awe-inspiring, at least. It can also be challenging or even prove frightful. To be watched all your life by often rather critical, not to say strict eyes, is no child’s play.

Yes, she is among the richest people in the world and the richest in England, if I remember correctly. But try imagining to be under ‘observation’ morning, noon and night, every day of your life – and have any false step commented on or even ridiculed: Many have been known to flee from that kind of duty, before. She delivered it with amazing self-control and apparent ease all her long life.

Yet, it seems to me that fashion these days works very similarly in everybody’s life, in these ‘modern’ digital times: More than in previous decades?

The fashion that women and men should behave just as so many actors in modern TV-series: be clothed that way, behave that way, cool, calm and always ‘true to form’: To me that is a pity; anyone who deviates from that ‘form’, that ‘mold’, the iron cast of fashion, will be subject to numerous misconstructions and misrepresentations – just because ‘fashion’ demands otherwise.

I plea the cause of diversity in every sense: Let’s not judge prematurely just because now and again people do actually not fit – and are different – or just show personal character.

Cruel Attack on Salman Rushdie – Award-winning Writer

Image showing Salman Rushdie discussing with mic in hand
Image courtesy Ecosia Search Engine – Free license

After all this time someone managed to hit, cruelly: Salman Rushdie, wonderful poet and writer of award-winning books was attacked on Friday with a knife and hit 10 times. At the moment of this writing he seems to  be out of danger. I hope he will recover and heal mind and body to come out even stronger than before.

The darker side of any religion sometimes is revealed in such acts: Manipulated simple-minded people who actually believe that freedom of press, opinion and religious following could be considered a sin, exist. They existed in ancient history when Muslims and Christians killed each other in the ‘Holy Land’ apparently over who would own it.
When it really was about power in that region and trade ways as well as roads.

In ancient times and these days: Any religion can be abused to manipulate people into cruel deeds, into following someone for the sake of simple solutions in words, in order to feel special, in a dangerous, deceptive safety of woolly-headed idolatry.

The only way out of what Plato described in the cave allegory: People sitting in a cave, with the entrance behind them, a slight elevation and a light on it between, watching the cave walls. Life and its figures passing by the entrance outside, to such humans appear like flickering shadows on that back wall.

To leave that cave of misinterpretation and age-old manipulation means: Train your mind.

Learn about thoughts and ideas. Understand that humans need to respect each other in order to be able to live in a world of peace and joy. To be able to even let their dreams come true which might be just – to live and let live in peace of mind.

To watch over human rights as declared in the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations – is without alternative!

The Most Important Idea to Remember…

image of a single red rose bloom on a heap of pebbles
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians, 13; translation: New King James Version, 1982)

The bible is called that because the term ‘biblos’ in Greek means book; to many it is the book of books.

I think it is full of wisdom, if you know how to read it. The focus on the New Testament, the Evangelists, neighbourly love at its center.

Other religions are wise too, equally if you know how to read and understand them. To me the most important value we can use to measure that kind of quality is respect for life, human – and otherwise, animals, plants, the Earth.

Again:

8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Destiny…? – The Choice of Reaction

image of sunset and a pair of human legs in sports shoes walking

Especially in hard times you comparatively quickly learn one thing:

Walk on, let go, do not look back.

In the bible there is this story about a God-fearing and pious man called Lot – and Lot’s wife. When God in this story tells Lot that he and his family should flee his hometown in order for God to be able to let an earthquake destroy its population as a sign and a punishment, they do so.

And although they are told to follow the guardian angel and on no account look back so as not to be turned into pillars of salt – Lot’s wife is disobedient: She looks back. She is turned into a pillar of salt – and so to this day lives in the (sub)-consciousness of many a Christian or Western person. Not Lot on his own merit, but by his wife’s action, and thus ‘Lot’s wife’ has become immortal.
For looking back.

On the surface the story tells us that being pious means being protected. Yet, I also think that the looking-back part of the story is the most important aspect:

However serious or even catastrophic the situation may seem: Looking back saps your strength and your energy to go on. Continue with life.

I’ve found that true many times, and even though I have seen lots of hardship, pain, suffering and death of loved ones, I also consider myself lucky, compared. I have seen love too, closeness, friendship – and being ‘connected’ to other human beings who know a thing or two about life as well.

The idea seems global really, Buddhism has it, other religions and cultures know it:

Letting go of suffering, walking on, try to avoid pain that may be obvious in advance, from experience…
The choice of what happens is not always ours – the choice of reaction is. Always.

Why One Size Does NOT Fit All – or: The 32-Size Shoe

three people legs and shoes visible sitting on edge of car trunk
I see it happen all the time: People look at someone and with almost deathly certainty they ‘diagnose’ their (apparent) problem – and also have a solution ready right away. Strangely enough such people almost never are doctors themselves.
Because good doctors know that one size does not fit all.

A person appearing slightly ‘overweight’ – by today’s public standards – of course just must be in need of a new and completely changed sports and dieting plan.

A person who likes their home, sometimes stays there for a certain amount of time at a stretch just cannot possibly be happy – or healthy, for that matter – unless a new plan of being out in the open is devised and put into action.

What such ‘diagnosers’ usually ignore completely is the fact that really and truly one size does not fit all.
That is true for health, food and sports alike.

A famous food chemist put it along these lines one day :

Many such rules about what is best for you or your health are made and conducted on the following principle:
They look at who has the healthiest feet, find that those with healthy feet wear 32-size shoes – and thereafter prescribe them for everyone.
But would you wear them if you happened to have a 43-size foot?

And there is also something else to consider: What motive do such reformers have, trying to make everyone the same….?

Even the bible has a fine saying on it:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? (Matthew, 7.3)

Perhaps it ‘behoves’ all of us to be a little more careful before ‘diagnosing’ a person by a very few symptoms alone – where there may be no problem at all in the first place – and without knowing the whole story or history.

‘Social’ Media, ‘Shitstorms’ or: Types of Public Recognition…

image of skewed social media icons on a smartphone surface
I think I can thank my lucky stars that I never was part myself of the so-called
‘social networks’, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Their really ‘unsocial’ character is proven daily. I watched a documentary on a prestigious TV channel the other day and the amount of dirt used to discredit journalists or political opponents makes me shudder.

I know for a fact too, that younger and inexperienced people may suffer serious damage and pain from such hunts. That is tragic.

As a blogger and part-time writer I safely can say: If there was any shitstorm raised from some corner of those nets against me – it would be a sign only that I had hit a weak spot of such a politician:

Trump in the US, Salvini in Italy and Bolsonaro in Brazil come to mind. Each of them just interested to manipulate those that are too simple-minded to be able to know the truth.

Facts can be checked, there is no interpretation possible of facts.

That kind of recognition by reactionary representatives of an actual silent minority of too rich and too selfish groups in society would actually make me proud.

Super-models, Used Cars and TV-Shows – or: The Relativity of ‘Beauty’

image of line of models on catwalk walking away
Super-models are and have been hotly discussed as a concept for decades, at least.
Why? First and foremost, because, they sell:
They sell an idea, glamour, the unattainable, a dream…and the latest fashion. Last but not least, the idea of sublime love…

They seem to be the living image of all those childhood fairy tales, the princess of the piece; again the almost unattainable, the ‘lady in distress’ to be saved.
The prize a man would win and thus suddenly be shot to the top of society from wherever he came, originally.
The woman apparently being a ‘princess’ or ‘queen’ in her own right:
Adored, looked-up to – and earning money by the bucketload…

But the downside of this is also very true and thus this post: Too many people take these images still too seriously and especially young ladies and girls tend to try and follow that example – far too often and far too much.

We should remember this, as a well-known TV-personality put it one day, (translated from German):

He spends lots of times behind the scenes in the makeup artists’ domain and what they do to the models’ faces there would get any used-car dealer into prison…

Since the advent of digital image editing this is even more pronounced, try using a search engine online for terms such as ‘digital makeup’ or ‘digital face lifting’: Just one such search comes up with 5.3 million results.

In our modern digital age the spread of such images is fast and almost global: Far too many people every day doubt themselves and their looks and suspect they might not look fashionable, that is ‘beautiful’, enough.

A big mistake. Because, what happens to people who choose a partner simply for looks is a complete disillusionment as soon as the person becomes known to them in real life.

It is part of that fairy-tale ending we so often presume when not aware (yet) of the image as opposed to reality. I’ve posted about that too, elsewhere.

Love starts with ourselves. Not with ‘eternal, perfect’ beauty. But with the friendship we can develop inside for ourselves, a liking, the ‘love your neighbour as you love thyself‘ concept.

I implore anyone who is in doubt about their features:
Think again! Watch, learn, I am sure you will find I am right: ‘Winning’ someone’s love starts with liking / accepting ourselves for what we are.

In recent years some campaigns have been launched for ‘real beauty realization’.
But the reverse is there still: TV-Shows about model challenges and searches where young women and increasingly men are cruelly put down in front of audiences for ‘not fitting the bill’.

Erich Kästner, German, award-winning poet and writer of the 20th century, put it in a fine poem like this
(used DeepL for English translation in this case, edited manually, for speed):

The dream of face-swapping

When I dreamt what I am about to tell you,
thousands were rushing through that house.
And as if some one commanded it
and their own faces tormenting everyone,
they all took off their faces.

Like taking pictures off the walls for moving
we took our faces away.
And then we held them in our hands,
as masks are held at the end of festivities.
But it was not festive, the place.

Without mouth or eyes, bare as shadows,
each one reached for the other’s hand,
until they had faces again.
Quickly and silently the exchange was made.
Each took what he found in the other’s hand.

Men suddenly wore children’s features.
Women wore beards on their faces.
Old men smiled like concubines.
And then they all rushed, me along with them,
towards the mirror but I couldn’t see myself.

The crowd grew wilder and wilder.
One of them had discovered his face!
Shouting, he forced his way through the crowd.
And he cornered his face.
But he did not find it. It remained hidden.

Was I that child with long braids?
Was I that woman with red hair?
Was I one of the bald heads?
Among the mixed-up creatures
I saw none that was myself.

Then I woke up in shock. I felt cold.
Someone was pulling my hair.
Fingers tugged at my mouth and ear.
I realised, as the fear faded,
that the hands were my own.

Of course, I was not completely reassured.
Was I wearing features that did not concern me?
I jumped up hastily and turned on the light,
I ran to the mirror, looked at my face,
put out the light and went to sleep, reassured.

 

The Conquest in Passion – Hearsay and Reality

photo of unpeeled pomegrantes

Almost as long as patriarchal society exists hearsay about the male conquest of women exists as well.
‘Get her’, ‘make her’, ‘have her’, and similar, some far ruder expressions are used by a certain type of male: The ones who believe in fairy stories, the adult kind – that are actually based in so much swaggering.
The numbers of conquests some men pretend to have made. And the ways and means they purportedly use to reach the ‘goal’…

I’ve posted about similar aspects before – yet this seems so present all around me, in marketing, online messages, some movies, ‘social networks’ – especially hearsay and hidden misunderstandings, I feel like putting it here again.

There are those who ‘prove’ their ‘masculinity’ by taking photos and showing them around. In former times they might have collected them in albums like stamps… These days it’s probably mostly the smartphone.

Some even install devices to watch their next-door neighbours with telescopes or even more sophisticated tools these digital days.

Another breach of privacy, crude and cruel in some cases, too.

The Breach of Privacy

The strange thing about this is that the watchers and ‘collectors’ ignore ‘magnanimously’ that is not only a breach of privacy but is a crime by the Human Rights Declaration. There exist countries who have laws that punish this kind of behaviour if it becomes known.

The Damage to Mind and Body

Even sadder are the long-term effects of such behaviour: It damages mind and soul. Of the ‘actors’. Simply put.

The mistake is in the premise:
Ever since Charles Darwin published his theories about the evolution it seemed to be clear that human beings are not far from animals themselves. The consequence seemed to present itself smoothly: They therefore would or even should behave the same way.

People who believe it in these simple terms tend to overlook that human beings are in possession of complex feelings, basic emotions and a mind.
Such people also tend to believe the stories and images and movies that have existed ever so long as well, from Zeus to Don Juan, over Casanova to the average ‘erotic’ story.
These stories are make-believe of a society that creates them to ultimately ‘market an image’.

It’s been proven by this time that the ‘mindless banging’ will end in depression and often even drug-addiction, alcohol or worse.

Why?

Because anyone practising this, men or increasingly women too, will have to consciously detach their mind from their ‘heart’, the outer sign of (passionate) emotions.

This amounts to schizophrenic behaviour in the true sense of the word and just as the actual condition is a sickness of the mind, so is the effect of such ‘banging’ over the course of time.

King Henry VIII.

A very famous example of many is king Henry VIII. of England: Shortly after the love of his life was abandoned for reasons of family lineage (male prince and successor), partly by the advice of his counsellors at court, he started doing just that: He not only seduced as many women as he could get hold of; he also drank and smoked without restraint or real joy…

During the past 10 years or so in historical research the diaries his doctors and his servants kept were revealed: All the ailments – and there were quite a number! – are easily attributed by modern doctors to his lifestyle.
A BBC documentary summarizes these findings nicely.

What Women Do (Not) Admire…

There are cases, alas, among men, who are or will be lost to this kind of realization.

Because they have been raised that way. Because they are too much afraid to not belong – ‘belong’ to the apparently large number of ‘real men’.

One thing is true, too: Smart women will not take this kind of behaviour seriously into account. Ask them, if you will…